Notes Somber Start for Durant

By Associated PressJanuary 2, 2007, 5:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)KAPALUA, Hawaii -- Joe Durant had not qualified for the winners-only Mercedes-Benz Championship in five years, so his holiday season was brimming with excitement about a trip to Maui to start the year.
 
He arrived in a somber mood, still stunned over the Christmas Eve death of his sister-in-law.
 
'My brother and his wife were at our house and we had a party for a bunch of us, and they went back to the condo at the beach,' Durant said. 'They were there about 30 minutes and she passed away. They still don't have a cause of death.'
 
Durant was extremely close to his older brother, Flip, and his wife, Frances, who came to several PGA TOUR events.
 
He was supposed to arrive at Kapalua on Wednesday, but the family held a memorial service for Frances Durant on Thursday, and Durant flew to Hawaii on Saturday.
 
'It was a tough holiday,' Durant said. 'Trust me, coming over here ... it was a hard trip to make. As excited as you are about going some place, when that happens to someone you love so much ... You want to get excited because you know your family is excited, but it's tough.'
 
Durant never imagined he would be at Kapalua six months ago.
 
He was in danger of losing his card, but a top-10 showing at the Buick Open got him off the bubble. He won at Disney, tied for fourth in Tampa and ended the year with a tie for third at the Tour Championship, moving up to 13th on the money list with more than $2.8 million, his highest finish.
 
'It was a great finish for me and for my family,' he said. 'Halfway through the year, I wanted the year to be over. And by the end of the year, I didn't want it to stop.'
 
KING OF KAPALUA
Stuart Appleby has won three straight years at the Mercedes-Benz Championship, and it reached the point that people said he ought to buy property.
 
So he did.
 
Appleby purchased a lot on Honolua Ridge and plans to build a home, joining Jim Furyk as past champions (Furyk won in 2001) with homes at Kapalua.
 
'It's an amazing piece of property,' Appleby said. 'It's not my home, but it's become my golf home in a way. Half of my victories have come out of this sections of the woods, so it was a no-brainer.'
 
DORAL CHANGE
Piling up FedExCup points early might pay off for some players trying to get into the World Golf Championship at Doral. The PGA TOUR added another criteria for the CA Championship, taking the top 10 in FedExCup standings the Monday before (March 12) and the Monday of (March 19) the tournament.
 
Previously, this WGC event took the top 50 in the world ranking and top money leaders from each tour. That criteria hasn't changed.
 
IN THE BAG
David Toms will make his debut at Kapalua with his new TaylorMade irons, having signed a new endorsement deal after Cleveland decided not to renew any of its contracts.
 
The change could include the end of a club that made him famous -- his 5-wood.
 
Toms has had the club since 1998, and his most memorable shot came in the third round of the 2001 PGA Championship when he made a hole-in-one on the 15th hole at Atlanta Athletic Club, where he went on to win by one shot.
 
He was testing a TaylorMade hybrid at the Target World Challenge two weeks ago, and he was trying out another hybrid during a practice round Monday at the Mercedes-Benz Championship.
 
'Sooner or later, I'm going to retire it,' Toms said.
 
Joe Durant is using the latest irons from Cleveland, putting aside a model he has used for eight years. He tried to switch last year, returned to his old clubs and finished the year with a victory and two top-five finishes.
 
'I struggled last year trying to make a transition to the irons, and the guys at Cleveland were nice enough to give me the year to really work on it,' Durant said. 'This year, I knew I needed to make a switch and here I am. I'm happy with what I've got in the bag.'
 
He also left Titleist, signing a ball, shoe and glove deal with Callaway.
 
DALY DOINGS
John Daly chalked up his worst year on the PGA TOUR to injuries, particularly problems with his sciatic nerve. Apparently, he still hasn't fully recovered.
 
Daly was in the Phoenix area this week when his right leg went numb, said his agent, Bud Martin. Martin said Daly went to a hospital to get an MRI, and the tests came back negative.
 
The two-time major champion lost his PGA TOUR card last year and will be playing on sponsors' exemptions, with his first start next week in the Sony Open.
 
SEEING RED
Tiger Woods is known for wearing some form of red on Sunday. Luke Donald tends to wear white pants in the final round, although he unwittingly chose a red shirt for the final round of the PGA Championship, where he was tied for the lead with Woods.
 
Was it a mistake?
 
Donald said he was in a no-win situation.
 
The Englishman doesn't like to concern himself with what to wear each night, so he determined what his outfits would be when he arrived at Medinah, and it was a red shirt for Sunday.
 
'Obviously, Saturday night I knew I was playing with Tiger,' he said. 'I think if I changed my outfit, it was almost like giving in to him already on the first hole. It was nothing against Tiger. I wasn't trying to make a statement or anything. I thought if I changed it, I'd have already lost.'
 
Paul Casey went the other direction.
 
He also had chosen a red shirt to wear in the final round of the Bridgestone Invitational, but when he wound up in a final threesome with Woods and Stewart Cink, he switched his shirt to lime green.
 
Didn't matter -- he shot 71 and finished three strokes behind.
 
DIVOTS
For the first time, every player at the Mercedes-Benz Championship was on the early commitment list for the Sony Open next week in Honolulu. That changed Tuesday when Adam Scott decided not to play. ... Joe LaCava is on the bag this week for Davis Love III. LaCava is the regular caddie for Fred Couples, who does not plan to start his season until the Bob Hope Classic. ... Stuart Appleby is wearing Kapalua brand shirts this week. His deal with Ashworth ended last year, and his new clothing contract is not complete.
 
STAT OF THE WEEK
Only seven of the 34 players at the Mercedes-Benz Championship have won a major.
 
FINAL WORD
'I think she came five years too early to try to play the men's tour.' -- Stuart Appleby, on Michelle Wie playing the Sony Open for the fourth straight year.
 
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    Mickelson grouped with Z. Johnson at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 8:28 pm

    He's not the highest-ranked player in this week's field, but Phil Mickelson will likely draw the biggest crowd at the CareerBuilder Challenge as he makes his first start of 2018. Here are a few early-round, marquee groupings to watch as players battle the three-course rotation in the Californian desert (all times ET):

    12:10 p.m. Thursday, 11:40 a.m. Friday, 1:20 p.m. Saturday: Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson

    Mickelson is making his fourth straight trip to Palm Springs, having cracked the top 25 each of the last three times. In addition to their respective amateur partners, he'll play the first three rounds alongside a fellow Masters champ in Johnson, who tied for 14th last week in Hawaii and finished third in this event in 2014.


    11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson

    At No. 3 in the world, Rahm is the highest-ranked player teeing it up this week and the Spaniard returns to an event where he finished T-34 last year in his tournament debut. He'll play the first two rounds alongside Watson, who is looking to bounce back from a difficult 2016-17 season and failed to crack the top 50 in two starts in the fall.


    11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker

    Reed made the first big splash of his career at this event in 2014, shooting three straight rounds of 63 en route to his maiden victory. He'll be joined by Snedeker, whose bid for a Masters bid via the top 50 of the world rankings came up short last month and who hasn't played this event since a missed cut in 2015.


    1:10 p.m. Thursday, 12:40 p.m. Friday, 12:10 p.m. Saturday: Patton Kizzire, Bill Haas

    Kizzire heads east after a whirlwind Sunday ended with his second win of the season in a six-hole playoff over James Hahn in Honolulu. He'll play alongside Haas, who won this event in both 2010 and 2015 to go with a runner-up finish in 2011 and remains the tournament's all-time leading money winner.

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    Mackay still a caddie at heart, even with a microphone

    By Doug FergusonJanuary 16, 2018, 7:34 pm

    HONOLULU – All it took was one week back on the bag to remind Jim ''Bones'' Mackay what he always loved about being a caddie.

    It just wasn't enough for this to be the ultimate mic drop.

    Mackay traded in his TV microphone at the Sony Open for the 40-pound bag belonging to Justin Thomas.

    It was his first time caddying since he split with Phil Mickelson six months ago. Mackay was only a temporary replacement at Waialae for Jimmy Johnson, a good friend and Thomas' regular caddie who has a nasty case of plantar fasciitis that will keep him in a walking boot for the next month.

    ''The toughest thing about not caddying is missing the competition, not having a dog in the fight,'' Mackay said before the final round. ''There's nothing more rewarding as a caddie, in general terms, when you say, 'I don't like 6-iron, I like 7,' and being right. I miss that part of it.''

    The reward now?

    ''Not stumbling over my words,'' he said. ''And being better than I was the previous week.''

    He has done remarkably well since he started his new job at the British Open last summer, except for that time he momentarily forgot his role. Parts of that famous caddie adage – ''Show up, keep up, shut up'' – apparently can apply to golf analysts on the ground.

    During the early hours of the telecast, before Johnny Miller came on, Justin Leonard was in the booth.

    ''It's my job to report on what I see. It's not my job to ask questions,'' Mackay said. ''I forgot that for a minute.''

    Leonard was part of a booth discussion on how a comfortable pairing can help players trying to win a major. That prompted Mackay to ask Leonard if he found it helpful at the 1997 British Open when he was trying to win his first major and was paired with Fred Couples in the final round at Royal Troon.

    ''What I didn't know is we were going to commercial in six seconds,'' Mackay said. ''I would have no way of knowing that, but I completely hung Justin out to dry. He's now got four seconds to answer my long-winded question.''

    During the commercial break, the next voice Mackay heard belonged to Tommy Roy, the executive golf producer at NBC.

    ''Bones, don't ever do that again.''

    It was Roy who recognized the value experienced caddies could bring to a telecast. That's why he invited Mackay and John Wood, the caddie for Matt Kuchar, into the control room at the 2015 Houston Open so they could see how it all worked and how uncomfortable it can be to hear directions coming through an earpiece.

    Both worked as on-course reporters at Sea Island that fall.

    And when Mickelson and Mackay parted ways after 25 years, Roy scooped up the longtime caddie for TV.

    It's common for players to move into broadcasting. Far more unusual is for a caddie to be part of the mix. Mackay loves his new job. Mostly, he loves how it has helped elevate his profession after so many years of caddies being looked upon more unfavorably than they are now.

    ''I want to be a caddie that's doing TV,'' he said. ''That's what I hope to come across as. The guys think this is good for caddies. And if it's good for caddies, that makes me happy. Because I'm a caddie. I'll always be a caddie.''

    Not next week at Torrey Pines, where Mickelson won three times. Not a week later in Phoenix, where Mackay lives. Both events belong to CBS.

    And not the Masters.

    He hasn't missed Augusta since 1994, when Mickelson broke his leg skiing that winter.

    ''That killed me,'' he said, ''but not nearly as much as it's going to kill me this year. I'll wake up on Thursday of the Masters and I'll be really grumpy. I'll probably avoid television at all costs until the 10th tee Sunday. And I'll watch. But it will be, within reason, the hardest day of my life.''

    There are too many memories, dating to when he was in the gallery right of the 11th green in 1987 when Larry Mize chipped in to beat Greg Norman. He caddied for Mize for two years, and then Scott Simpson in 1992, and Mickelson the rest of the way. He was on the bag for Lefty's three green jackets.

    Mackay still doesn't talk much about what led them to part ways, except to say that a player-caddie relationship runs its course.

    ''If you lose that positive dynamic, there's no point in continuing,'' he said. ''It can be gone in six months or a year or five years. In our case, it took 25 years.''

    He says a dozen or so players called when they split up, and the phone call most intriguing was from Roy at NBC.

    ''I thought I'd caddie until I dropped,'' Mackay said.

    He never imagined getting yardages and lining up putts for anyone except the golfer whose bag he was carrying. Now it's for an audience that measures in the millions. Mackay doesn't look at it as a second career. And he won't rule out caddying again.

    ''It will always be tempting,'' he said. ''I'll always consider myself a caddie. Right now, I'm very lucky and grateful to have the job I do.''

    Except for that first week in April.

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    The Social: The end was nigh, then it wasn't

    By Jason CrookJanuary 16, 2018, 7:00 pm

    The star power at the Sony Open may have been overshadowed by a missile scare, but there were plenty of other social media stories that kept the golf world on its toes this week, including some insight on Tiger Woods from a round with President Obama and some failed trick shots.

    All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

    By now you've undoubtedly heard about the false alarm in Hawaii on Saturday, where just about everyone, including most Sony Open participants, woke up to an emergency cell phone alert that there was a ballistic missile heading toward the islands.

    Hawaiian emergency management officials eventually admitted the original message was mistakenly sent out, but before they did, people (understandably) freaked out.

    As the situation unfolded, some Tour pros took to social media to express their confusion and to let the Twittersphere know how they planned on riding out this threat:

    While I would've been in that bathtub under the mattress with John Peterson, his wife, baby and in-laws (wait, how big is this tub?), here's how Justin Thomas reacted to the threat of impending doom:

    Yeah, you heard that right.

    “I was like ‘there’s nothing I can do,'” Thomas said. ”I sat on my couch and opened up the sliding door and watched TV and listened to music. I was like, if it’s my time, it’s my time.”

    Hmmm ... can we just go ahead and award him all the 2018 majors right now? Because if Thomas is staring down death in mid-January, you gotta like the kid's chances on the back nine Sunday at Augusta and beyond.

    Before the Hawaiian Missile Crisis of 2018, things were going about as well as they could at Waialae Country Club, starting with the Wednesday pro-am.

    Jordan Spieth might have been the third-biggest star in his own group, after getting paired with superstar singer/songwriter/actor Nick Jonas and model/actress Kelly Rohrbach.

    You'd be hard-pressed to find a more photogenic group out on the course, and the "Baywatch" star has a gorgeous swing as well, which makes sense, considering she was a former collegiate golfer at Georgetown.

    As impressive as that group was, they were somehow outshined by an amateur in another group, former NFL coach June Jones.

    Jones, who now coaches the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats, played his round in bare feet and putted with his 5-iron, a remedy he came up with to battle the yips.

    Former NFL and current CFL coach June Jones: A master of 5-iron putting?

    A post shared by PGA TOUR (@pgatour) on

    Considering he made back-to-back birdies at one point during the day, it's safe to say he's won that battle.

    With Tiger Woods' return to the PGA Tour about a week away, that sound you hear is the hype train motoring full speed down the tracks.

    First, his ex-girlfriend Lindsey Vonn told Sports Illustrated that she hopes this comeback works out for him.

    “I loved him and we’re still friends. Sometimes, I wish he would have listened to me a little more, but he’s very stubborn and he likes to go his own way," the Olympic skiier said. "I hope this latest comeback sticks. I hope he goes back to winning tournaments.”

    Vonn also mentioned she thinks Woods is very stubborn and that he didn't listen to her enough. That really shouldn't shock anyone who watched him win the 2008 U.S. Open on one leg. Don't think there were a lot of people in his ear telling him that was a great idea at the time.

    We also have this report from Golf Channel Insider Tim Rosaforte, stating that the 14-time major champ recently played a round with former president Barack Obama at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., where he received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.

    The Farmers Insurance Open is sure to be must-see TV, but until then, I'm here for all of the rampant speculation and guesses as to how things will go. The more takes the better. Make them extra spicy, please and thanks.

    These poor New Orleans Saints fans. Guess the only thing you can do is throw your 65-inch TV off the balcony and get 'em next year.

    Here's two more just for good measure.

    Farts ... will they ever not be funny?

    Perhaps someday, but that day was not early last week, when Tommy Fleetwood let one rip on his European teammates during EurAsia Cup team photos.

    Fleetwood went 3-0-0 in the event, helping Europe to a victory over Asia, perhaps by distracting his opponents with the aid of his secret weapon.

    Also, how about the diabolical question, "Did you get that?"

    Yeah Tommy, we all got that.

    Ahhh ... golf trick shot videos. You were fun while you lasted.

    But now we’ve officially come to the point in their existence where an unsuccessful attempt is much more entertaining than a properly executed shot, and right on cue, a couple of pros delivered some epic fails.

    We start with Sony Open runner-up James Hahn’s preparation for the event, where for some reason he thought he needed to practice a running, jumping, Happy Gilmore-esque shot from the lip of a bunker. It didn’t exactly work out.

    Not to be outdone, Ladies European Tour pro Carly Booth attempted the juggling-drive-it-out-of-midair shot made famous by the Bryan Bros, and from the looks of things she might have caught it a little close to the hosel.

    PSA to trick-shot artists everywhere: For the sake of the viewing public, if you feel a miss coming on, please make sure the camera is rolling.

    Seriously, though, who cares? Definitely not these guys and gals, who took the time to comment, "who cares?" They definitely do not care.

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    Spieth selected by peers to run for PAC chairman

    By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 6:43 pm

    Jordan Spieth may still be relatively young, but he has gained the confidence of some of the PGA Tour's most seasoned voices.

    Spieth is one of two players selected by the current player directors of the Tour's Policy Board to run for Chairman of the Player Advisory Council (PAC). Spieth will face Billy Hurley III in an election that will end Feb. 13, with the leading vote-getter replacing Davis Love III next year on the Policy Board for a three-year term through 2021.

    Last year's PAC chairman, Johnson Wagner, replaces Jason Bohn as a player director on the Policy Board beginning this year and running through 2020. Other existing player directors include Charley Hoffman (2017-19), Kevin Streelman (2017-19) and Love (2016-18).

    The 16-member PAC advises and consults with the Policy Board and Tour commissioner Jay Monahan on "issues affecting the Tour."

    In addition to Spieth and Hurley, other PAC members for 2018 include Daniel Berger, Paul Casey, Stewart Cink, Chesson Hadley, James Hahn, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Anirban Lahiri, Geoff Ogilvy, Sam Saunders, Chris Stroud, Justin Thomas, Kyle Thompson and Cameron Tringale.